The Ringtone and the Drum

‘Fuses the traditions of great travel writing with a deep and sophisticated knowledge of the fast-changing politics and cultures of West Africa. The result is a truly engaging and informative book that provides a rare tour of one of the world’s poorest and least understood regions.’ Doug Saunders, Canada Globe and Mail, and author of Arrival City

‘The Ringtone and the Drum is high-energy food for wanderlust. Teeming with interesting facts, it turns Weston’s perspicacious eye on some of the least visited countries on earth. The result is an accessible, unique and enchanting account. But beware: it will tempt even the least daring to pack their bags for West Africa!’ David Bloom, Professor of Economics and Demography, Harvard University

‘A powerful and uplifting read. This book is like the best kind of journalism from The Economist: sound explanations of brutal economics, heartfelt empathy for the sufferers, and a clear understanding of history, and the political conditions that are making everything worse. I’ve read too much bland and depressingly shallow long-form journalism by the First World about the Third World. I’d like to see Zero Books take on travel more vigorously, to combine their politics with development issues as successfully as Weston has done with The Ringtone and the Drum.’ Vulpes Libris

‘I don’t think Mark Weston’s The Ringtone and the Drum got the attention it deserved on its publication in Britain in October 2012. But then that’s partly my fault: short of reading time, and far from short of pieces from Africa, I glanced at it when a review copy came in toTelegraph Travel, and then put it on a shelf. It stayed there until I was having a clear-out last Christmas, dipped into it, and carried on reading.’ Michael Kerr, Daily Telegraph

‘Gripping…The book I would suggest is not merely a travel book, but a book of political travel. The places Weston visits, namely Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau and Burkina Faso, are three of the world’s poorest countries, all in West Africa, but are constantly changing in incredibly fascinating ways. Weston deals with extremely difficult issues such as being white and middle class in a third world country, but also gives us insight into forgotten or relatively untapped worlds.’ Carl Packman, Left Foot Forward

‘This is no ordinary travel writing. How little is known – and genuinely cared? – in the developed world about these three countries makes Weston’s work a very valuable enterprise. This is a book about individual lives and journeys – including for Weston himself, whose whole being feels the strains of the experience, and who returns home a month early whilst vowing to return. This is also a story of resistance.’ Melanie Torrent,Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs

‘Excellent.’ Richard Trillo, author of Rough Guide to West Africa

‘A fascinating and very readable book.’ Alex Cobham, Centre for Global Development

‘A wise and compelling book, which offers a real picture of what daily life is like in West Africa. Weston is a brave and resourceful traveller, who has entered the heart of some of the most fascinating and least visited parts of the world.’ Toby Green, author of Meeting the Invisible Man: Secrets and Magic in West Africa

‘The Ringtone and the Drum reminds us of our affluence and privilege as well as taking us on a fascinating journey through West African history and geography.’ Julia Manning, Daily Mail

‘A well-crafted travel memoir that appreciates the complexity of countries that have received little mainstream traveller attention.’ Royal African Society

‘Weston’s tour of Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau, and Burkina Faso sounds like the most depressing read of the year; and it would be, if not for Weston’s fine writing, his well-paced travel narrative, and his many profiles of doughty penniless Africans, in small towns and large, who haven’t succumbed to despair.’ William Claverlee, Perceptive Travel

‘The Ringtone and the Drum is a description of the people of West Africa, their daily struggles, hardships and hopes. The book tells the story of the poor in these countries, hawkers, coffee-sellers, market-stall owners trying to survive by working in the largest employment sector in the region, the informal economy. The lives of the people Weston meets are told with sensitivity and compassion. He shows that the poor of the region are like us, deserving of the same interrogation and expressing the same hopes…The Ringtone and the Drum helps us to understand West Africa, with a deeply humane rage against poverty in a region – and world – of abundant wealth.’ Leo Zeilig, Socialist Review

‘Full of rich detail and interesting historical anecdotes (as well as a surprising amount of political economy shout-outs) about a part of the world that most readers will never see, but its real value lies in Weston’s success at communicating exactly what he set out to discover: “a better idea of how the world’s poorest people make it through the day.” Worth a read.’ Kate Cronin-Furman, Wronging Rights

The Ringtone and the Drum

Read an extract from the book on Roads & Kingdoms here.

Listen to an interview with Mark Weston on Radio France Internationale here.